Many say the annual 105-mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, which starts in Chamonix, France, is the toughest race on earth. Runners in this ultramarathon summit 10 peaks in the Alps, scramble up more than 30,000 feet of vert, cross several glaciers, and run through three European countries. It takes most participants almost two days and two nights to traverse the whole course.
This year’s event, which took place August 28 to 30, defeated more than a third of the people who entered. French runners came out on top. Xavier Thévenard won his second UTMB in 21:09:15, more than 50 minutes ahead of second place. Nathalie Mauclair took the lead for the women, finishing in 25:15:33.Fresh off the starting line, runners—including eventual winner Nathalie Mauclair (17), Núria Picas (9, DNF) and Fernanda Maciel (41, DNF)—take off through the streets of Chamonix, France.The Grand col Ferret, at 8,284 feet, is a high point on the UTMB.Frenchman Xavier Thévenard attracts a crowd at a nighttime aid station, prior to running a strong second 50 miles to secure his second UTMB title.Nathalie Mauclair, who won the women’s race, hydrates during a quick pit stop.Baguettes and salami fuel runners when they’re craving carbs, fat, and salt.With an evening start, the ultra runners begin the arduous UTMB with a sleep deficit. Some cat nap during the race.Climbing from Arnuva, a runner races the sun to the top of Gran col Ferret.Champion Xavier Thévenard celebrates his win in Chamonix, France. He finished in 21:09, nearly 50 minutes ahead of second-place finisher Luis Alberto Hernando.